New form of fitness takes workout to new heights

Medical Watch
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Taking traditional exercises off the floor and upping the challenge. It’s a new form of fitness that’s just arrived in Chicago and will take your workout to new heights.

Shama Patel, president, Air: “It is elevated, suspension training program that builds lean muscle, strengthens the core and increases flexibility.”

It’s part ballet, part Pilates and yoga, and a whole lot of core work – all done through a series of suspended poses.

Shama Patel: “The exercises are a lot more challenging because you are elevated. Holding a regular plank is tough, holding an elevated plank is a lot more tough. We do high reps of everything to get the muscles fatigued then stretch them out in between to give you that long, lean muscle look.”

The exercises that appear light as air are supported by heavy hardware — a grid system of beams built into the ceiling designed to support thousands of pounds.

Shama Patel: “It took about a month to build the structure. It required a structural engineer. Up here we have professional climbing gear and this fabric, believe it or not, holds a thousand pounds.”

It’s called aerial silk fabric – the same material you’d see at a Cirque Du Soleil production.

Shama Patel: “It’s a blend, it’s a very strong, secure stretchy kind of fabric.”

But at Air Fitness in Lincoln Park, it’s no show. The idea – what you can do on a mat, you can also do above it.

Shama Patel: “Sit ups and crunches and push-ups and planks, but they are just harder because they are in a hammock.”

Air is the brainchild of Shama Patel — formerly a lawyer, now an aerial fitness entrepreneur

Shama Patel: “Typically who we see in the Air classes are individuals who already work out but are looking for that extra push.”

I jumped in and gave it a try. A bit skeptical, I trusted the instructions and, surprisingly, didn’t fall on my head.

After hanging out for a bit, I swung into crunches. The exercise was my favorite – and the most challenging of all I attempted. I even tried a more advanced maneuver called pigeon pose. After our workout it was time to relax – or at least try.

Shama Patel: “This is what we call cocooning. It’s just a quick little nap to take time for yourself and take in everything your body endured.”

Dina Bair: “It is relaxing, but the workout was so challenging that I’m still breathing heavy while I‘m supposed to be relaxing. I need another minute.”

Air opens September 4. You can learn more at

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